There was something going on that was unusual for blogging conferences at the BAM Bloggers at Midlifeconference in Nashville. Something that everyone was acutely aware of, surprised by and happy about.
The women were connecting. Not just as bloggers, but as women.
Many of the women at the conference knew each other from a Facebook group for midlife bloggers, but many didn’t, and yet there was nothing cliquey, awkward or uncomfortable about it. One hundred women -all taking a chance that our first conference would be worth the time, expense, and for some, arduous, storm-filled travel – one hundred women found themselves wandering the enormous Gaylord Resort in Nashville in search of their people – and when they found each other, it was magical.
These women jumped right into the cocktail party, hosted by Stouffer’s, devouring macaroni and cheese like they were once again children watching cartoons on a black and white television in 1970. Old friends hugged and reconnected, new friends hugged and found each other. There was very little talk that evening of blogs, or branding, or social media, or making money – it was just a chance to spend some time and get to know each other again or for the first time.
We were giggling and filled with anticipation of our first BAM conference like high school freshmen going to their first school dance. It’s safe to say we all fell a little in love with each other. Then of course, we got down to business. And business could never have been gotten down to without the help of Julia Robinson,Susan Williams and Elizabeth Barnhart, who volunteered their time, their energy, and in Susan’s case her garage as a storage facility and her husband as a delivery man.
We were new at this. But not anymore. We learned more this past weekend, these past 6 months, than we could have imagined. Beth taught me about being a businesswoman who make things happen. Anne taught me about persistence and commitment. Teresa taught me about patience and optimism. And we all learned from our attendees what makes midlife women – bloggers in particular, but women, I think, in general – simply amazing. The sense of generosity, connection and, as hokey as it sounds – sisterhood – was everywhere.
Without even naming it, the theme of the conference just naturally and wonderfully appeared – reinvention. From keynote speaker Elisa Camahort Page and her interview partner Danyelle Little to each and every panelist and presenter, the overriding message was “you can do anything you want at midlife.” Whether it’s find thousands of new twitter followers, as Jodi Okun taught us how to do (and got us trending on Twitter!), or surround yourself with your BEST (blog, email, social media and trademark) brand as Tracy Beckermanexplained, the most important ingredients are confidence in yourself and knowing that, as Martie Duncantold us, the worst that can happen is you’ll fail and have to try again.
And of course, that’s what Anne, Teresa, Beth and I learned. Finding sponsors for BAM was key to our success – and also the most challenging part of our project. Along with Stouffer’s, Nissan proved that they believe in women – as drivers, as consumers, as a market to be taken seriously – and partnered with us. We were thrilled. Brand to blogger companies Collective Bias and Vibrant Nation came and shared their expertise, and Collective Bias even bought us all lunch. Cabot Cheese, a longtime favorite of many bloggers, showed up, with the lovely Candace Karu bringing cheese and gifts for everyone. Always Discreet, a product we all can use every now and then, sent Elaine Plummer to spend the day with us, and Albertini Skincare and Beauty – a brand that focuses on women over 45 – was enthusiastic and generous. We had goodies from Grown and Flown and College Financial Aid Advisors, and 1010 Park Place invested in us too. Our gratitude to these generous and supportive companies for taking a leap of faith and helping us to succeed cannot be expressed – and we enjoyed working with all of them.
After 3 years of working together on a variety of projects, including Midlife Boulevard, Anne and I could not be more thrilled with how BAM turned out – and we could never have done it without Beth and Teresa. But truly, honestly, sincerely (that’s 3 adverbs!) we would never have thought to do BAM in the first place if it wasn’t for the incredible community of midlife women we’ve come to know over the past 3 years. We look forward to seeing you next year – the weekend of April 30 (mark your calendars!) for the next BAM Bloggers at Midlife conference.